'It Is Essential That As Charities We Get Our Heads Around What The Digitized World Means'

Interview with Kelly Grellier, Director of Strategic Business Planning at The Blue Cross.


Ahead of our Chief Strategy Officer summit in London, April 25 & 26, we spoke with Kelly Grellier, Director of Strategic Business Planning at The Blue Cross.

Kelly is currently Director of Strategic Business Planning for Blue Cross pet charity, prior to this she was Global Head of Strategic Planning for Electrocomponents and Business Analysis & Planning Director for BT Managed Services Ltd, about the challenges of strategy in the charity sector and how a digitized world will change the not-for-profit world.

What is unique about Blue Cross’ strategy?

Blue Cross has a 120 year heritage of caring for pets in need, providing knowledge and understanding in the welfare of pets and promoting pet ownership, especially where owners well-being is likely to benefit. In thinking along the lines of Simon Sinek and starting with why - we exist because pets enrich our lives and add value in so many ways, yet are completely reliant on human care for their own well-being. Moving to how we do this - we care about pets and people and take a compassionate, non-judgemental approach, using expert knowledge and advice to enable current and future pet owners to provide happy and healthy lives for their pets. Finally what we do - we provide a holistic approach to meeting the current and future needs of pet welfare, providing knowledge & understanding where it is most needed, helping pets in need through veterinary care, rehoming services and behavior interventions as well as promoting the social and emotional value of pets to society.

What are the challenges of creating a successful strategy in the charity sector?

In one way we have an advantage in the charity sector, as we have a clear unifying purpose that people join, volunteer and support the charity in unanimity of that purpose, however the converse of this is that people’s expectations on joining a charity is that culturally it is going to feel quite different to a commercial organization and so when driving a large change agenda with a professional portfolio and governance approach this can be at odds with what people feel comfortable with. As such, it is important to approach it in a way that both safeguards the charity in terms of responsible delivery whilst adapting it in order to optimize its chances of success through engaging people in the change and bringing them with you.

How has a digitalized world changed the charity sector and what do you think is set to change it in the near future?

It is essential that as charities we get our heads around what the digitized world means to the way in which we deliver our social purpose. The experience I have had over the last year on a fellowship with CAST (Centre for accelerating social technology), is that it is largely about being able to reimagine our theory of change through the lens of powerful technology and a design thinking approach, in order that we continue to engage society in the way that they expect and behave in today’s digital world. If we don’t embrace this then it is likely that our impact will reduce as we don’t represent ourselves in a relevant way that people find easy to use - if used well we should be able to significantly increase our impact through reach and accessibility.

I would really recommend to any charity the CAST fellowship, they are set up to support non-profits to embed digital and design across their services, strategy, and governance. It has been hugely impactful for us as a charity.

There's a McKinsey statistic that claims that 70% of business strategies don't actually achieve what they set out to achieve. What kind of traps do companies fall into when implementing a strategy?

I think it is important not to get stuck in a plan. Plans need to be iterative and responsive to the results it is driving and the changes in the external environment, keeping the outcomes required in focus, but the way of getting there flexible.

What kind of changes need to be made to corporate mentality to ensure a workforce that's more effective at embracing new strategies and innovations?

A shift to not only see their people and volunteers as the channel for delivering existing services and implementing changes to services, but also in service design. As they are seeing the impact first hand of the services with end customers, the impact of internal changes as well as changes in behavior due to external factors. It is equally important to regularly listen to users of your services, so you have a constant grip on reality and design & deliver services that people actually use.

See Kelly's presentation 'Leaning into digital innovation to change pets lives' at our Chief Strategy Officer summit in London, April 25 & 26.

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